Five Ways to Promote Post-Exercise Recovery
Five Ways to Promote Post-Exercise Recovery
To improve your strength, fitness, or overall health, starting an exercise regime is a great start. But to be able to train consistently, it’s vital that you take care of yourself between workouts. Let’s take a look at five scientifically-backed ways of promoting post-exercise recovery that you can use to ensure you’re always ready for that next session.
Post-Exercise Recovery Tip #1: Avoid Alcohol
Let’s start with an obvious one: The ideal post-workout drink does not contain booze!
Researchers in New Zealand (1) tested the leg strength of participants before and after three sets of 100 leg extensions. Immediately after the extensions, participants either drank a vodka orange (a “screwdriver” in cocktail parlance) or an orange juice. As expected, when leg strength was tested again 36 hours later, it was reduced in both conditions compared to before the extensions. However, while the decrease in strength was less than 30% in the orange juice condition, it was over 40% in the vodka orange condition.
So, if you’re in the habit of rewarding yourself with alcohol for a good workout, by all means continue, but know that it’s not helping your post-exercise recovery!
Post-Exercise Recovery Tip #2: Consume Electrolytes
If not alcohol, what should you drink? Well, something with electrolytes would be good.
In a study conducted by researchers in the UK and Hong Kong (2), participants ran on a treadmill for 90 minutes, then, over the course of a 4-hour recovery period, either consumed an electrolyte drink (containing potassium, sodium, and calcium) or a sweet-tasting placebo drink (without electrolytes). When asked to run again after the recovery period, those in the electrolyte condition were able to keep going for 24 minutes longer than those in the placebo condition (69 min vs. 45 min).
Post-Exercise Recovery Tip #3: Consume Protein
As well as electrolytes, protein can positively impact your recovery.
An article published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (3) describes the effects of protein consumption on recovery among endurance-trained cyclists. After a simulated 100-kilometre race on cycle ergometers, the participants either consumed high- or low-protein foods over the next 4 hours. During this period, levels of testosterone, a hormone linked to increased strength, were 25% higher in the high-protein condition, and, when training the next morning, athletes in this condition felt less tired and sore.
Post-Exercise Recovery Tip #4: Stretch
But recovery isn’t just about what you do or do not consume.
Working with untrained males, researchers in Portugal (4) investigated the effects of stretching on recovery. After completing sets of 30 leg extensions until they could do no more, the participants either recovered passively (i.e., did nothing) or spent 3 minutes stretching. This involved holding one’s foot while standing so as to extend the quadriceps. When tested 96 hours later, leg stiffness was significantly lower in the group that had stretched compared to the group that had not. As well as reducing stiffness, stretching can also enhance range of motion, flexibility, and muscle efficiency.
Post-Exercise Recovery Tip #5: Listen to Relaxing Music
Yes, it might be hard to believe, but there is evidence that relaxing music can promote post-exercise recovery!
In a study completed in India (5), participants stepped up onto and down from a platform for 6 minutes as part of a protocol known as the Harvard step test. Next, they either recovered in silence, listened to fast music, or listened to relaxing music. While the participants were recovering, the researchers assessed their vital signs, and found that blood pressure and heart rate returned to normal most quickly in the relaxing music condition compared to the other two conditions.
Final Words on Post-Exercise Recovery
Unfortunately, alcohol compromises post-exercise recovery. Instead, grab an electrolyte-infused sports drink or a protein shake. As well as attending to your nutritional needs, take a few minutes to stretch the muscles you’ve just worked. And do so while listening to some relaxing music of your choice. If you follow these principles, you’ll be all set to give 100% when it’s time for the next workout!
About the Author
As well as BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees in life science subjects, James Roberts has over 10 years of experience in strength and endurance training. He loves to write in order to share his expertise in healthy eating, training, and supplementation.
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1. Barnes, M. J. (2010). Post-exercise alcohol ingestion exacerbates eccentric-exercise induced losses in performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 108, 1009–1014.
2. Wong, S. H., Williams, C., & Adams, N. (2000). Effects of ingesting a large volume of carbohydrate-electrolyte solution on rehydration during recovery and subsequent exercise capacity. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 10(4), 375–393.
3. Rowlands, D. S., Thorp, R. M., Rossler, K., Graham, D. F., & Rockell, M. J. (2007). Effect of protein-rich feeding on recovery after intense exercise. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 17(6), 521–543.
4. Torres, R., Pinho, F., Duarte, J. A., & Cabri, J. M. H. (2013). Effect of single bout versus repeated bouts of stretching on muscle recovery following eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 16(6), 583–588.
5. Savitha, D., Mallikarjuna, R. N., & Rao, C. (2010). Effect of different musical tempo on post-exercise recovery in young adults. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 54(1), 32–36.